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Gatlinburg tourism official in Tri-Cities encouraging people to come visit

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It's been more than two months since deadly wildfires scorched through Gatlinburg.

From the get go, officials there have focused on rebuilding and encouraging tourists to come back and visit.

On Tuesday, News 5's Jessica Griffith looks into the progress as a Gatlinburg tourism representative visits the Tri-Cities.

Vicki Sims says Gatlinburg's only industry is tourism. So, she wants everyone to take a getaway at the place they know and love.

"The interior of Gatlinburg, the main street of Gatlinburg that area is open and is showing well," she said.

Sims is a leader of the Visitors Bureau. She was in Bristol, sharing the destruction she saw the night of the fire.

She wants people to know that many of Gatlinburg's most loved places remain open for visitors. Including the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

"There's 500,000 acres in the national park. Only 17,000 acres were actually affected by the fire," she said. Rotarian Barry Sims, Vicki's brother in law, grew up in Gatlinburg.

"It became personal when you see friends and homes that you have so many memories that were destroyed it became very personal," he said. It also felt personal to people here who cherish the Gatlinburg area for vacation. "Gatlinburg itself, the spirit of Gatlinburg, the park. The things that we love about the region are there and we all need to go back," he said. "We feel like our visitor is our family. So we want to welcome them home. We want them to come see that what they know and love is still there and it is okay," Vicki said.

The tourism official says visits are on the rise, and as spring approaches, they hope that will continue. There's a list of businesses and activities in Gatlinburg posted here.

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